How to be a great seller – even if you’re not in sales
However, it is possible to hone your sales skills if you want to improve your ability, she says.
"You can be technically good at what you do, but not good at selling. And while you can learn to sell, you've also got to make sure that you're not trying to be something you're not. Because with sales, authenticity is the key," Barrett says.
Know the common mistakes
The biggest mistake made by many sales folk is falling into the "lock and load" approach, says Lindsey Marshall, senior associate of Sydney business development and sales training organisation, Wentworth People.
"You see this all the time as a customer. The salesperson has learnt their product knowledge really well, can explain why it's a great product and rattle off all the product specifications. But this is all immaterial until you know what the customer wants," Marshall says.
Another common mistake is to repeatedly interrupt the customer when they're trying to tell you what they need to do your sales pitch.
"Some salespeople think this is a dialogue and in some ways it is, but it isn't an effective way to sell. You need to ask all your questions before you start the selling process so you understand the customer's needs."
"There are about half a dozen key questions you want to ask, depending on your industry, what you're selling and what your customer needs. What you want to do is extract key pieces of information from the customer," Marshall says.
The other bad habit of sales people is those that pounce as soon as the customer walks in the door, which can be a blatant grab at a commission.
Asking the customer how much they want to spend can also be bad news, he says.
"As a customer, I've seen how salespeople can get it wrong."
"Like the time I went shopping a fridge that wouldn't break under the strain of my seven kids. And yet when I walk in, the salespeople straight away ask me how much I want to spend, which forces me into a numbers space when the most important factor for me is the strength and durability of the product. And no matter what they say, they often take me to the most expensive fridge because that gives the salesperson the largest slice of commission. It's so transparent."
"People actually love spending money, but they don't like it when people make the process difficult for them."
Understand your offering
Barrett says those looking to be better salespeople should spend the time understanding what it is they offer.
"You have to know what you offer the world and then connect proactively. It's about genuinely knowing what you can do for other people and then understanding how you add value to their life," Barrett says.
Once you have a clear understanding of your offering, make sure you spend some time preparing ahead of your sales pitch, Barrett says.
"You need to make sure you have a valid reason for speaking to someone you want to sell to, whether it's a meeting or phone call. And you need to have some degree of confidence, courage, drive and ambition to be an effective seller. Although once you learn the ropes, this often follows."
"Good sales people are very purposeful and make sure they have a valid business reason for speaking to someone."
Read the customer
US professor Steve W. Martin has studied the seven top traits of sales people after interviewing and administering personality tests on thousands of sales people who sell for some of the world's leading companies.
Martin is the founder of the Heavy Hitter sales philosophy and an expert on "sales linguistics", the study of how customers use language during the complex decision-making process, which has helped more than 100,000 salespeople become top revenue producers.
He says that key personality traits directly influence top performers' selling style, and ultimately, their success. His studies found that top sales people are most often modest, conscientiousness, high achievers, curious and self-confident with a lack of gregariousness.
Martin told SmartCompany that one of the most important ways to improve your sales skills is by studying language.
"First, you should know that the language you use is uniquely shaped by your personality and is influenced by your background and experiences."
"Second, recognise that customers speak a variety of languages, depending on their role in the organisation and the decision-making process. Finally, the ability to consciously adapt your language to mirror customers' is the best way to build winning report."
Interestingly, Martin also found that a very high percentage of the best salespeople played organised sports in high school. There seems to be a correlation between sports and sales success as top performers are able to handle emotional disappointments, bounce back from losses and mentally prepare themselves for the next opportunity to complete, he says.
Marshall, meanwhile, agrees that reading the customer is a vital skill for successful salespeople.
"You need to ascertain whether the customer is enjoying the social interaction side of the sale or if they're in a hurry and then respond in a like fashion."
A personal account
Deb Pilgrim is a sales mentor for small business owners and has been in business for 20 years. She admits that in the beginning, selling was terrifying to her.
"Trying to get a sale was like pulling teeth."
But trial and error has seen her develop a "soft close" method that she swears by.
Firstly, she talks about the value of what she offers, taking the time to explain exactly why her service will add value to the person's life. Lastly, she states the price.
"Then, I don't say anything at all. We can sit there for a minute or two while the person weighs it up in their mind, but I don't talk, no matter how tempting it is to fill in the silence."
Pilgrim says this method gives her a 90% success rate.
"If the client says I'm too expensive, then I know that I haven't explained the value well enough to them, but that doesn't happen very often anymore."
Maureen Pond, director of coaching and leadership skills business, Performance Toolkit adds that when it's within your control, timing is important.
"I believe that 10 sales calls before 10am is a good aim. This is when people are most likely to be at their desks and you are most likely to get hold of them. Avoid trying to sell by simply sending information to people. It doesn't work unless you have a strong brand and a huge database."
A trial close
Using trial closes such as asking the customer to book their first session, asking how they would like to pay or other questions that they would only answer if they had made the decision to proceed can also be a good way to sell, says John Hagerty of Sydney business building company, Be Business.
"This alleviates the need to ask directly for the sale, which is usually the number two fear most people have. The number one fear is being rejected."
And if you haven't managed to clinch the deal, don't presume all is lost, Hagerty says. "Most sales are made in the follow up. But many assume they've been rejected if they don't get the sale right away, which means they miss the majority of opportunities to get the sale."
When to brush up on your skills
However, if you're not a confident seller, perhaps you should consider looking into a sales course.
The Sydney-based managing partner of sales training course Huthwaite Asia Pacific, Adam Thorp, says the trick is to find the right course for you.
"You need to understand your learning objective so that when you're looking at all the providers out there, you can pick one that will meet your specific needs."
Thorp says a sales coach could also help, which would suit management looking to get more out of their sales staff. "The business owner might want to go through a coaching workshop so they can engage with their staff better."
Be a good referrer
And lastly, if you find that you're unable to help the person, make sure you refer them to someone who can wherever possible, Barrett says.
"And remember that not all clients are good clients, but don't end up giving things away for free because they can't afford what you're selling. This just devalues your offering."
Steve W Martin's new book is titled Heavy Hitter Sales Linguistics: 101 Advanced Sales Call Strategies for Senior Salespeople. Go to www.heavyhitterwisom.com for more information.